Was Louis Walsh Right?

You may have heard that after ten years, Louis Walsh is stepping down from the judge panel on the X Factor. If you haven’t don’t sweat it. Reality competition shows aren’t nerdy enough for this blog to give a second thought, but I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to bring up my favorite Louis Walsh anecdote.

In 2008, Daniel Evans walked out on stage in front of thousands of people and belted out a powerful I Wanna Know What Love Is, complete with overdramatic hand gestures, lighting effects, and pre-recorded backing vocals. As he finished to thunderous applause, the cameras turned to the four X Factor judges, the first of which was Boyzone manager Louis Walsh. “You remind me of Ricky Jer-VAY singing karaoke at a Christmas party,” he said. The audience booed the criticism.

The week following the airing, Gervais sat on Graham Norton’s trademark red couch on The Graham Norton Show and said that he had been watching the episode. Gervais complained, “This week, [Walsh’s] on again going ‘Oh, I just said you look like Ricky Jer-VAY,’ and everyone else, Cheryl Cole and that, is going ‘Oh, that’s a bit harsh,’ like it’s the worst thing in the world!”

“But, in fairness, you are quite famous,” Norton said. “So, why he’s pronouncing your name Ricky Jer-VAY, it’s like someone calling him a stupid cun.” He picked up the phone, dialed Louis Walsh, and handed it to Gervais, telling him, “At least tell him how to say your name.”

Gervais shrugged it off and greeted Walsh on the other end with a “Hello, it’s Ricky Jer-VAY.” It wasn’t the first time he’d dealt with the mispronunciation of his name. In fact, it’s likely that Ricky’s pronunciation—Jer-VAYZ—is the mispronunciation. His father, Jerry Gervais, was French Canadian, which means the original pronunciation must have been the French Jer-VAY. It’s possible that the pronunciation was adjusted long before Gervais, Sr. ever stepped foot on U.K. soil, but there is evidence that suggests otherwise:

In 1998, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant started a radio show at Xfm in London. After hearing the show, Gervais’ mum rang up to scold her son on his foul language. As a sidebar, she directed her son to correct his co-host’s pronunciation of his name. It’s Jer-VAY, she told him as though she’d told him a thousand times before. And anyway, “Your handle is Ricky.” (This later made Merchant, skeptical of the use of the word “handle,” speculate that Gervais’ mum might be in a biker gang.)

So it’s possible that Louis wasn’t wrong. He was just siding with Gervais’ mum and Canada.

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